By Neil Schneider
This game review was updated on 09/04/08 to reflect new compatibility with the NVIDIA stereoscopic 3D drivers.
Since I started MTBS, one of the most common questions I get asked is “How is Unreal Tournament in stereoscopic 3D”? I’d usually stare blankly like a deer in headlights, or I’d smile half assuredly, and if I’m really brave, I’d say “we are looking into it” or “I hear good things”. I have a confession to make. Unreal Tournament is one of the few games I didn’t have a direct answer for because…I never owned it before.
I know this is shocking, and many readers are charging up their laser pistols, chain guns, and ricochet pulse cannons as they are reading this. Similar to breaking the laws of physics, I know how sacri-video-game-ligious a statement like this is, and I can only beg for your forgiveness.
As a small token of my repentance, I have put together this review of Unreal Tournament 3 (UT3) by Epic Games / Midway, the most recent version of the popular series.
I would best describe Unreal Tournament 3 as a first person shooter wrapped with a serious story that was never designed to be taken seriously. A loose semblance of characters put together so the stage is set for cartoonish fun and mayhem. I would say this game is best targeted to the gamer who is interested in playing at his or her computer for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, but keeps the game on their hard drive permanently so they can satisfy the urge to blow stuff up at a whim.
Unreal Tournament 3 is designed to be a multiplayer game more than anything else. You can play death matches where it’s everyone for them self, team death matches where two sides are trying to wipe each other out, capture the flag scenarios, a dueling mode, and a new warfare option where you need to destroy each other’s reactor cores and power nodes.
The single player starts off with a serious story about a character named Reaper who is seeking revenge for his town getting demolished and being personally left for dead by an invading force, but Unreal Tournament 3’s seriousness is quickly evaporated once you get in the game. Nobody really dies because the moment you or an enemy gets blown to bits, you are put together again and thrown back in the game.
The campaign is a creative excuse to play through all the maps in Unreal Tournament 3 and does not pretend to have a complex story or structure. However, an interesting twist is the campaign can be played alongside other gamers in a multiplayer mode, so the ease and difficulty can never be predicted.
The actual game reminds me of the multiplayer mode in Doom 3. It has a very similar feel to it. You run around, you grab guns and ammo that appear on the field, and you blow stuff up! However, killing is more like sport in this game. Depending on your efficiency, the announcer will yell stuff like “Double Kill”, “Multi-kill”, and “Killing Spree”.
NOTE: I got fooled by the announcer’s voice. It sounds like Peter Cullen, the voice for Optimus Prime in Transformers, but everything I’ve read says it isn’t.
The weapons are varied and all have dual modes: pistols, shock rifles, flak cannons, bio rifles, rocket launchers…well, you get the idea. I still have to get the hang of it, but you also get hold of a personal transporter that lets you aim at a spot, and instantly transport to another part of the map to get around walls and obstacles.
Similar to the Battlefield series, different maps feature vehicles. Tanks, buggies, mini-saucers armed with nasty guns, tentacle monster machines like in War of the Worlds – it’s all there. A new feature on vehicle maps is a personal hover-board. If a friendly vehicle is driving by, you can latch on for a ride – kind of like Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movie series – but there is no manure in this game (is this movie reference too old?).
As a player, you can customize your appearance by picking a clan, choosing a character, and deciding on what clothes and armor to wear. I have to warn you that while the graphics are well rendered and artistically done, everybody is ugly, ugly, UGLY! The ladies are nice, but the men are UGLY! Ugly monsters, ugly tattooed muscle-heads, disfigured corpses – just nasty look’n characters. Doesn’t matter what they wear…UGLY!
In traditional 2D form, I can see how Unreal Tournament 3 has a cult following and continues to prove very popular. However, this game really started holding my interest once I got it working in stereoscopic 3D.
Using the iZ3D 1.08 drivers, this game was almost an instant success. The weapons are all rendered in proportion to the rest of the screen, I am able to have all the post processing and eye candy set to maximum, and the game-play remains fast, fast, fast in 1680 X 1050 resolutions on my 8800GTS 512! I enjoy a good mix of pop-out and depth, and I am able to easily achieve this with Unreal Tournament 3.
In 2D, I think the maps have medium and borderline simple grade detail compared to other games, but in stereoscopic 3D, the whole look is significantly enhanced.
If you are using the iZ3D driver solution, the game takes longer to start than usual. When you see the title screen, don’t worry about the long pause during load-up. This is normal for UT3 and the iZ3D drivers.
We did have a near miss with the game, though. Out of the box, the game had a lot of anomaly problems including several game elements that were appearing in 2D while everything else was in stereoscopic 3D. Samples included crystals, webs, and grass patches all rendered at screen depth instead of where they were supposed to be.
We learned that a single shader was simultaneously being used for the menu and several elements in the game, and because the menu had to be in 2D, the rest of the elements were in 2D as well. Note to Epic Games and fellow game developers: don’t do that!
Fortunately, we were able to make arrangements to have this problem fixed at the driver level, and these anomalies are no more. Most of the anomalies are now gone, and the few that remain are very unnoticeable.
With all the recent news of Unreal Tournament 3 earning Gold-A MTBS certification, we are equally pleased to report that NVIDIA has added UT3 compatibility to their latest NVIDIA 177.83 stereoscopic driver set. To play UT3, you will need to reduce the “World Detail Level” to 3 or lower when using the NVIDIA drivers.
The game performed well on my NVIDIA 8800GTS 512, and with the exception of the reduced image quality settings, the game render quality is about the same as the iZ3D solution. UT3 is also a good working sample of NVIDIA’s new laser sight system where the in-game crosshair dynamically adjusts according to what the player is aiming at. The NVIDIA drivers also boast DX10 compatibility on paper, but this visual advantage is nonexistent with the reduced game settings.
In summary, while Unreal Tournament 3 has earned a cult status in the gaming community, its true measure of effectiveness is best discovered in stereoscopic 3D. The mix of humored fun, fast game-play, and proportionate 3D rendering compliments the S-3D experience to the point of enhancing this good game to a much more visually immersive experience.
In our gallery review section, you will find additional stereoscopic 3D image samples and an anaglyph (red/blue glasses required) stereoscopic 3D movie that you can download to get a sense of the 3D effect. Please remember that anaglyph is not reflective of modern full color solutions, and is for sample purposes only.
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May your aim hold true as you will find I am a tough adversary on the UT3 battlefield!
How Memorable Is This Game
Stereoscopic Effectiveness iZ3D
Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA
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Overall rating NVIDIA: